Universal Studios and several of its co-defendants have lost a motion to dismiss a copyright infringement lawsuit related to the 2013 movie “The Purge.”
Screenwriter Douglas Jordan-Benel filed a lawsuit against the studio, writer and director James DeMonaco and United Talent Agency (to name a few), claiming they stole his idea for the Ethan Hawke horror breakout.
“Plaintiff’s claim for copyright infringement is sufficiently supported by plausible factual allegations,” U.S. District judge Michael Fitzgerald wrote in has decision. “Given DeMonaco’s relationship with UTA at the time of the transmission,
The judge did dismiss the case against production companies Blumhouse Productions and Overlord Productions, however, as Jordan-Benel “has not alleged any facts to show access by Blumhouse or Overlord.”
According to the lawsuit, the concept at the center of the franchise about a Utopian society that devolves into lawless madness once a year was lifted directly from an original screenplay Jordan-Benel submitted in 2011 to David Kramer and Emereson Davis at UTA called “Settler’s Day.”
The lawsuit claims Davis eventually “passed” on the script in July 2013, saying he “had a difficult time buying into the premise of ‘Settler’s Day.'”
On June 7, 2013, “The Purge” hit theaters and Jordan-Benel claims the film included “the same core copyrightable expression as Plaintiff’s Screenplay in addition to numerous other similarities in the selection and arrangement of coyrightable and non-copyrightable elements.”
The lawsuit goes on to claim a wide array of similarities between DeMonaco’s “Purge” and Jordan-Benel’s “Settler’s Day,” from general concepts like the two stories’ themes of socio-economic strife to more specific points like front doors with “observation slots” built into them.
The lawsuit even named UCLA film professor Richard Walter as a witness. After the plaintiff asked him to read both scripts, Walter said “the similarities between ‘Settler’s Day’ and the Shooting Script are so striking that it is a virtual impossibility that the latter could have been created independently from the former.”
Jordan-Benel is seeking a retroactive creator’s credit on “The Purge” and at least $5 million in damages.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.